Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Fiction Forms


Reading a short story a day, I am often taken aback by how a good novelist doesn't always write a good short story. And you can see why; he/she needs another 175 pages to develop the ideas.

Most short story writers go for a moment more than a quick solving of a murder case or the story of a life. Likewise, a good short story writer writing a novel often seems to be at a loss at what details are needed-how to keep the excitement level up over the course of an entire book

Who does both well? I don't always like Joyce Carol Oates's novels and stories-but I think her talents are great in both forms. Who else?

21 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Stephen King can do it, though I think his short stories are superior to his novels. My favorite short story writers, though, like Dennis Etchison and Wayne Allen Sallee, do by far their best work at that level

Chris said...

Bonnie Jo Campbell and Louise Erdrich immediately come to mind.

That Gramlich character does a fine job as well, now that you mention it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, King seems able to write at any length although I sometimes think is longer works are his worse. Bonnie is an excellent example. I don't think I have read Erdrich's shorts, just her novel.
Alice Munro's novel was not nearly as good as her shorts.Updike did both well but his short stories were basically a novel in stories half the time--the Maples for instance.

Heath Lowrance said...

A lot of the old school paperback original writers were great at both. I'm thinking Helen Nielsen, Fletcher Flora, David Goodis, cats like that.
Also, Robert Bloch and Richard Matheson.
Modern-day, I have to agree about King. I'm a big, big fan of his short story work.
And by the way, am I the only one in the world who really doesn't like Joyce Carol Oates?

Gigistar said...

I wouldn't leave Joe Lansdale out of this list, you know?

F.T. Bradley: said...

Stephen King; I didn't always think so, but his latest novel was good, and I've always liked his short stories.

Elmore Leonard is good with both.

From a writer's perspective, I have to say it took me a long time to figure out how to write a novel. I sometimes think I ended up in children's fiction because novels for adults take too many words :-)

Erik Donald France said...

Guy de Maupassant? No idea, though it does seem that most break one way or the other.

Raymond Carver couldn't write novels and Larry McMurtry can't do short stories. I do like Mary Gaitskill's stories and novels both.

Gerald So said...

The first name that comes to mind is Lawrence Block. Another is Bill Pronzini. Still another is Rob Kantner.

Todd Mason said...

John Cheever, Joanna Russ, Mark Twain, Dashiell Hammett, Muriel Spark, Kate Wilhelm, Bruce Jay Friedman, Algis Budrys, Ellen Gilchrist, Rudyard Kipling, Carol Emshwiller, Barry Malzberg, Marcia Muller, William Kotzinkle, Franz Kafka, Fritz Leiber, Walter Van Tilburg Clark and on and on...

Todd Mason said...

Sorry, William Kotzwinkle.

Chris said...

Jim Harrison.

Dana King said...

Elmore Leonard can do either, as can Richard Russo.

Jerry House said...

In addition to those above: Ed Gorman, Bill Crider, Max Allan Collins and many of the Golden Age mystery writers such as Christie, Carr, Stout, Sayers, Chandler, Hammett, etc., etc., etc.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Have only read stories by: cheever, gilchrist, spark, wilhelm.
Have never read a short story by Dorothy Sayers.
Jim Harrison is a great example.

Richard S. Wheeler said...

Loren D. Estleman, who will be receiving the Owen Wister Award for lifelong contributions to the literature of the West this summer.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have heard him speak a number of times in Ann Arbor and he is always interesting, modest, and a gentleman.

Ron Scheer said...

Whoever said McMurtry could write novels should slog through his MOVING ON.

David Cranmer said...

Stephen King is one that pulls of both. And this new pulp writer named Chris F. Holm does both equally well.

Brian Lindenmuth said...

Tim Powers is one of my favorite writers. His short stories aren't bad but they aren't as strong as his novels. He said this in an interview once about his short stories:



“It takes almost as much hassle to write, to plot and research and outline a short story as for a novel, not quite but maybe half as much time. And, of course, a short story isn’t half as long as a novel and it doesn’t make half the money a novel makes. Also, most of my short stories tend to be either pointless vignettes in which I don’t bother to do the plotting. Or they are telescoped novels where people come to conclusions with way too little evidence, and the action happens too conveniently rapidly.”

Loren Eaton said...

Neil Gaiman writes a mean short story as well as a good novels, although I think he excels at shorter pieces.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm late to this (was on the road most of the week) but I will answer before reading other people's replies.

Ed Gorman (I've liked his novels quite a bit but his shorts are my favorites)
Bill Pronzini
Joe Lansdale
Lee Smith
Elmore Leonard
Dashiell Hammett
Raymond Chandler
Michael Gilbert
Agatha Christie
Lawrence Block

Well, there are so many that this just scratches the surface.

Jeff M.

PS - Will now read other comments to see what I forgot. Oh, there's one: Estleman.